+ Tuesday morning, I was walking along the Warrenton Waterfront trail and encountered the Skipanon River elk herd, which had decided to lounge in front of the little Lighthouse memorial to the drowned crews of fishing boats that had capsized on the lethal rip currents of the Columbia bar. The first thing you notice being that close to a herd is that elk smell. I don’t know if the females were in estrus, but the odor was almost intoxicating. Second, elk are big. Third, the bull elk, who was possessively sniffing each of his harem, is even bigger, much bigger, and the points on his rack are very sharp. I was maybe 20 yards away from the herd (too close for comfort), when he fixed his eyes on me and huffed, repeatedly. I considered my options, of which there seemed to be only one: jump in the river. How fast are elk, I wondered? How much time did I have, if he decided to charge? What made the situation even more surreal is that as I quivered behind my camera, seriously contemplating jumping into 50 degree water with savage currents, across Harbor Drive a woman was feeding a young male elk from her porch. Next time I’ll bring corn. Tribute must be paid…
+ As I eased back to my car ungored and untrampled, I felt like I’d passed some kind of test validating my own level stupidity and I flashed back to one of my favorite panels of rock art in the Northwest, an image of an Elk Man painted in red ochre by the river people 500 years ago, in a side canyon of basalt along the Columbia, a couple of hundred miles upstream from here, an image so powerful shotgun vigilantes have repeatedly splattered it with buckshot without (as yet) doing any fatal damage.
+ For the past 8 presidential elections, 5 of which were won outright by Democrats (who also carried the popular vote in 7), we were told that the primary reason to hold our collective noses and vote for Democrats was to preserve the Supreme Court and save Roe v. Wade. Over that same period, the court has swung to a super-majority of the far right, which has whacked voting rights, environmental laws, campaign finance reform, immigration rights, and abortion rights. For 25 of those 29 years, Joe Biden was either chair/ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Vice-President or President. The Democrats have forsaken the last reason to vote for them.
+ Scott Stewart, who argued the case for the State of Mississippi that the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade, was the Trump administration’s top lawyer defending family separations in federal court.
+ Justice Sotomayor during oral arguments (when she wasn’t interrupted by Kavanaugh or Gorsuch) argued that the sponsors of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban said “We’re doing it because we have new justices.” Then asks: “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?”
+ The DSCC wasted no time trying to capitalize on the impending loss of Roe for fundraising purposes…
+ In the 48 years since Roe was decided, the Democrats have had ample opportunity to codify the right to an abortion. In that time, they’ve controlled the Senate for 29 years, the House for 29 years and the presidency for 21 years. Instead, many Dems sought to restrict abortion rights, especially for poor women, largely by enacting the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal funds for abortions. The Hyde Amendment was first enacted in 1977, only four years after Roe. One of its most enthusiastic co-sponsors: Joe Biden.
+ For most poor Americans, the constitutional right to an abortion was effectively abolished in 1977 with the passage of the Hyde Amendment. By the late 80s, many states in the midwest and south had fewer than five clinics statewide and they were so far away and the services so costly that the incidences of self-managed abortions began to rise, often with fatal results.
+ In order to grasp just how much culpability the Democrats deserve for the steady erosion of reproductive rights, perhaps it will be instructive to revisit Al Gore’s reactionary positions on “choice.” As a “New Democrat” Congressman in the 80s, Gore spoke reverentially of the “fetus’s right to life.” He was a relentless supporter of the Hyde Amendment, banning federal funding for abortions for poor women. In one early version of the Hyde Amendment there was language allowing for exceptions in cases of rape and incest. Gore voted against that.
The most far-reaching measure dreamed up by conservative right of that era to undermine Roe v. Wade was an amendment put forward in 1984 by Michigan Republican Mark Siljander. It carried a one-two punch. First, it defined the fetus as a “person” from the moment of conception. Second, it denied federal funding to any hospital or clinic that performed abortions. Gearing up for a senate run that year, Gore was one of 74 Democrats in the House who voted for Siljander’s ultimately unsuccessful measure.
Those votes returned to haunt Gore as his political ambitions went national. By 1988, he was brazenly trying to rewrite his political biography. He and his staff were well aware that his votes against choice would be brought up against him. “Since there’s a record of that vote,” an aide told US News & World Report in 1988, “in effect what we have to do is deny, deny, deny.”
The problem came to a head in 2000 during a debate at the Apollo Theater in Harlem with Bill Bradley, who used the occasion to flourish and read out a letter Gore had written to a Tennessee constituent in 1984: “It is my deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong. I hope that someday we will see the outrageously high number of abortions drop steeply. Let me assure you that I share your belief that innocent human life must be protected and I have an open mind on how to further this goal.”
+ It is a peculiar aspect of the u-turn American history took after Reconstruction that Mississippi has any “state rights” left to assert.
+ There’s only one abortion clinic left in Mississippi and the working conditions inside it, as described by Dr. Cheryl Hamlin, seem like something of out of Kafka: “I am required by the state of Mississippi to tell you that having an abortion will increase your risk of breast cancer. It doesn’t. Nobody thinks it does. The American College of OB-GYNs doesn’t think it does.”
+ Dr. Alicia P. Long: “The guy who pulled his penis out on Zoom is the key CNN commentator on today’s SCOTUS hearing on MS abortion law. That’s about all you need to know about the politics of gender in this country.”
+ They’re still blaming Susan Sarandon…
+ Anyone who watches the HRC-approved documentary on Hulu will see why she lost and deserved to lose, both to Obama and Trump. Indeed, she may have been the only candidate who could lose to Trump. Five years after the greatest debacle in American political history, HRC still betrays not the faintest sign that she understands how she became the agent of her own defeat. Her self-regard is exceeded only by her boundless capacity for self-delusion.
+ Let’s give Biden some credit. In his first year in office, he has dramatically scaled back the US drone wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Afghanistan. Could this explain the press’ otherwise inexplicable hostility toward his administration (which otherwise checks all the neoliberal boxes demanded by the corporate press) since the pullout from Afghanistan?
Iraq and Syria
Obama (Jan. 2013-Jan. 2017): 17,841 strikes
Trump (Jan. 2017-Jan. 2021): 16,058 strikes
Biden (Jan. 2021–Nov. 2021): 39 strikes
Obama (Jan. 2013-Jan. 2017): 5,665
Trump (Jan. 2017-Jan. 2021): 13,381
Biden (Jan. 2021–Nov. 2021): 10
Obama (Jan. 2009 – Jan. 2013): 16
Obama (Jan. 2013-Jan. 2017): 44
Trump (Jan. 2017-Jan. 2021): 276
Biden (Jan. 2021–Nov. 2021): 9
Obama (Jan. 2009 – Jan. 2013): 25
Obama (Jan. 2013-Jan. 2017): 17
Trump (Jan. 2017-Jan. 2021): 134
Biden (Jan. 2021–Nov. 2021): 0
Airstrikes (not including CIA)
Obama (2009-2012): 946
Obama (2013-2016): 453
Trump: (2017-2020): 1182
Biden: (2021): 23
(The Air Force stopped reporting airstrike numbers in Afghanistan in Feb. 2020.)
+ No surprise that Marco Rubio has been conspiring with the ultra-right frontrunner in Chile’s presidential elections, José Antonio Kast, the admirer of Pinochet, whose father served in Hitler’s Wehrmacht.
+ + In 2020, 1021 people were shot and killed by police in the US. By contrast, 48 police were shot and killed in the line of duty. In the wake of the Rittenhouse verdict, many Americans may understandably be confused as to which party has the right to claim self defense in an encounter with police.
+ “Barricade and Throw” has now replaced “Duck and Cover” in the kiss-your-ass goodbye safety drills of American schools…..One 15-year student at Oxford High School told the Detroit Free-Press: “‘It’s part of school protocol to barricade, so we all knew, barricade, barricade down. And we all started pushing tables’…They then lined up along a wall and grabbed something to throw, also part of the active shooter training they’ve had.”
+ 1500: the number of houseless people who died on the streets of Los Angeles during the pandemic. More than 35% of the 1,493 deaths occurred on sidewalks. The next most common sites were parking lots (13%), alleys (5.7%), tents (5.6%) and embankments (3.6%). The average age of unhoused residents who died was 47 years old.
+ Meanwhile, another 420 previously unhoused people died in temporary shelters over the same period.
+ Mitch McConnell on the Democrats’ Build Back Better bill: “It provides — believe it or not — tax relief for millionaires and billionaires, largely in places like California and New Jersey and New York.”
+ Striking McDonald’s worker Guillermina Blanca:“I’m afraid to leave work to go to the doctor because I don’t want to get fired, and I cannot go to the doctor after work because I have to care for my nieces children, while she goes to work at this McDonald’s, too.”
+ A judge ruled this week that Google must disclose more than 70 secret documents related to its union-busting campaign with IRI consultants. The documents include anti-union training materials for managers and “messaging” advice.
+ There might not be any “I” in “Meat”, but there are probably “eyes” in the meat you eat from Oscar Mayer.
+ Move over, Omicron, the world’s first “living robots” can now reproduce…
+ Pfizer will rake in at a projected $36 billion from vaccine sales by the end of 2021 but has only delivered 1% of their vaccine to low-income countries.
+ NYT reporter Michael Shear: “Hours after he received the call from Meadows informing him of a positive test, Trump came to the back of AF1 without a mask and talked with reporters for about 10 minutes. I was wearing a mask, but still got COVID, testing positive several days later.”
+ Nature on why travel bans are not an effective way to control to the spread of COVID and may, in fact, be counter-productive.
+ What’s the opposite of a Nanny State? Missouri hiding data showing the effectiveness of mask mandates?
+ Spillover, Spillback, Spillbackover: did the Omicron mutation evolve from animals?
+ In the 1940s and 50s, the Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital in New York became a lobotomy mill, using brain-snipping to treat even mild cases of depression. In Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe quotes a Creedmoor surgeon mirthfully describing his technique:
“Nothing to it, I take a sort of medical ice pick, hold it like this, bop it through the bones just above the eyeball, push it into brain, swiggle it around, cut the brain fibers like this, and that’s it. The patient doesn’t feel a thing.”
Many of these lobotomy victims were release on the same day as their surgery, returning home with black eyes and incised brains.
+ The normally earth-bound AlterNet ran a piece this week claiming that the “Kremlin is feeding far-right Texas secession fantasies and using Ted Cruz as its useful idiot.” The Kremlin? Texas has been a hotbed of secessionist movements since the Wilmot Proviso of 1846…before it was even a state.
+ Speaking of fantasies, Secretary PeteBot claimed that “families who buy electric vehicles will never have to worry about high gas prices again.” In a fossil fuel-driven economy, gas prices are baked into every commodity people buy (even electric cars), which is why the US will be fighting wars for oil until the last drop is sucked out of the last desert in the last nation most Americans couldn’t name or point to on a map.
+ My favorite reaction to the piece I wrote last week on Kyle Rittenhouse came from from a reader in Georgia who advised that “Pathetic Beta Male is a better name for you…” Becky is printing up new business cards to reflect the name change.
+ In a December 1861 column for the North Star titled “Signs of Barbarism,” Frederick Douglass reported on atrocities committed by Confederate troops after the rout at Bull Run, including making candles from the tallow of dead Union troops and distributing the “tanned skin of Old John Brown’s son [Watson],” who had been killed at Harper’s Ferry, his skin flayed and the remainder of his body preserved for dissection at the Winchester Medical College.
+ At the instigation of Ishmael Reed, a few weeks ago I began looking into the backgrounds a few figures of the early Republic lionized as titans of liberty by the same New York City council which banished the statue of Thomas Jefferson from its chambers. Two figures in particular stood out, both members of the Manumission Society of New York, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. It turns out that both men were themselves slaveholders and the society that they founded and led banned black members. Now the New York Times (dare I think instigated by my admonitions) comes along with a very compelling story by Martha Jones (a historian at Johns Hopkins) on a young woman enslaved by Jay named Abigail, who repeatedly sought and was denied her freedom, both in New York and on Jay’s mission to France to negotiate the Treaty of Paris. One day in 1783, Abigail walked away from the Jay’s quarters in the Hotel de York off the Rue St. Germain, intending never to return. With the connivance of Benjamin Franklin, the French authorities issued a letter of cachet to detain Abigail. She was tracked down, arrested and thrown into La Petite Force prison, where Franklin suggested she be confined for 20 days to break her will for freedom. Soon her arrest, however, Abigail fell ill in the wretched winter conditions of the notorious prison and died a couple of weeks later. Neither Jay nor Franklin troubled themselves to record what happened to Abigail’s body or how her husband, back on the Jay estate in New York, took the news.
+ On April 16, 1862, Lincoln signed a bill emancipating the slaves of the District of Columbia. The bill authorized $900,000 to compensate the slaveholders for their lost “property.” In order to assess the “value” of each freed slave, the federal government hired a slave trader from Baltimore as a consultant, who set the market value at $300 for a “top specimen.”
+ Heat records falling across the northern Hemisphere. Here in Oregon City (45.3556° N) it’s been in the mid-60s…
+ John Kerry reiterated his claim this week that he “believes the private sector has the ability to win this (climate battle for us.” Clearly, Kerry’s swift boat has sailed right off the edge of the Flat Earth…
+ A piece in Gizmodo on the Pentagon’s attempt to exploit climate change to maximize its budget and justify new weapons purchases concludes by saying: “There’s a real risk to letting the military dictate so much of U.S. priorities, particularly around climate change….”
+ In America, our priorities are dictated by the Pentagon, cops and banks. So pick your poison, which will, of course, be provided by Big Pharma.
+ Not exactly breaking news, but a new study published by the Department of the Interior has definitely concluded that the duration and intensity of Western fires is driven by climate change. Scientifically speaking: “Our results suggest that the [western] US appears to have passed a critical threshold & that the dominant control on the fire weather variation…has changed from natural climate variability to anthropogenically forced warming.”
+ Ajay Singh Chaudhary on the “extractive circuit“:
Some states may want extractive frontiers within their boundaries for a measure of geostrategic leverage. Some local actors (a diverse array of some workers, surrounding communities, and social movements) are pitted against others. Extractivism is one of the only paths available to material development at many nodes along the circuit, towards some hope of relief. But it also promises destruction and exhaustion in its wake. While many fully aware of this reality in the Global South are rendered dependent on resource exports,in Pennsylvania, families similarly enroll in the latest fracking initiative or otherwise sign away mineral rights as one of the last remunerative games in town. Capital profits off the mine drainage, the freshwater depletion, the emissions, the social strain and desperation alike.
+ The Arapaho Glacier, Colorado’s largest (and last) alpine glacier, has melted away, and is now considered merely a “permanent” (and I use that word advisedly) “ice field.”
+It looks like Biden is continuing to prosecute the war on whistleblowers launched by Obama and Trump. Consider the case of Walter Loewen, a military veteran, who had spent the past 16 years as a specialist in implementation or planning under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Loewen had conducted NEPA reviews in several agencies, the last six years at BLM in Wyoming, where he had received numerous awards (including cash bonuses) for the high quality of his work. Then in Trumptime, Loewen objected to senior officials in the BLM failing to address major adverse impacts on migratory birds, such as the loss of nesting sites for ferruginous hawks, kestrels, owls, and other raptors, under a plan for 5,000 oil and gas wells, 1,400 miles of gas and water pipelines, new roads, and electrical lines in Converse County, Wyoming. BLM compounded those concerns by removing key restrictions on drilling and other work during bird breeding and nesting periods. In response, the BLM’s Wyoming Branch Chief for Planning, Social, and Cultural Resources, Jennifer Fleuret McConchie, retaliated against Loewen, stripping him of most of his duties and then she filed an action on February 19, 2021 calling for Loewen to be summarily terminated from federal service, alleging ludicrously that Loewen’s NEPA work had been substandard. The claim was upheld last week, even though the issues Loewen raised regarding the Trump administration allowing migratory birds to be killed or harmed by oil and gas operations has since been reversed under Biden. PEER is representing Loewen in his appeal of his termination before the US Merit Systems Board.
+ According to the International Energy Agency, renewables will account for nearly 95% of growth in global power-generation capacity up to the end of 2026.
+ As the Arctic warms, a greater proportion of precipitation is expected to fall as rain rather than snow. In autumn, there is projected to be more rainfall than snowfall by mid-century across most of the Arctic. This transition is projected to happen decades earlier in the new models.
+ Despite the fall rains, the drought in California persists. In fact it has deepened so severely that most cities and farms in the state, from Silicon Valley to San Diego, will receive virtually no water from state water projects next year. Lake Oroville, the state’s second largest reservoir and the primary source of water for state water projects, remains only 30% full.
+ Meanwhile, San Francisco is rationing water because Hetch Hetchy is low. A new study predicts that in 25 years there will be no snowpack in the Sierras. And Lake Foul is so low they’re beginning to analyze the sediments for toxins from gold mines. They’d better start building those desalinization plants pronto, which, of course, will never be able to satiate the unquenchable thirst of the big irrigators in the Central Valley.
+ It’s (checks calendar) December in Montana and a wildfire roared across the Judith Basin and burned down 25 buildings in the town of Denton…
+ As a basic rule, any scheme that includes both “offset” (as in carbon) and “net” (as in decrease) is almost certainly a scam, designed to financially benefit fossil fuel companies as they continue doing pretty much the same thing they’ve been doing.
+ “Net zero” deforestation is still deforestation…
+ Some dare call it “forestry”…
+ There’s nothing quite like the Soprano family reading group…
(At Meadow’s dinner table)
FINN: Did you like Billy Budd?
AJ: It was okay. My teacher said it’s a gay book.
CARMELA: That’s ridiculous…I’m sorry, but Billy Budd is not a homosexual book!
MEADOW: Actually, it is, mother.
CARMELA: I saw the movie, Meadow, with Terence Stamp.
COLIN (Meadow’s roommate): Terence Stamp was in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
CARMELA: I don’t know about that. But Billy Budd is the story of an innocent sailor being picked on by an evil boss…
MEADOW: …who’s picking on him out of self-loathing, caused by homosexual feelings in a militarized context.
CARMELA: Oh, please!
ALEX: Actually, Mrs. Soprano, there is a passage where Melville compares Billy to a nude statue of Adam before the fall.
TONY: I thought you read it?
CARMELLA: So, it’s a Biblical reference. Does that make it gay?
TONY: Must be a gay book. Billy Budd’s the ship’s florist, right? (Laughter)
MEADOW: Leslie Fielder has written extensively about gay themes in literature since the early fifties. Billy Budd in particular.
CARMELA: Well, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
MEADOW: She’s a he, mother, and he’s lectured at Columbia, as a matter of fact.
CARMELA: Well, maybe he’s gay. Have you ever thought of that?
(The Sopranos, Season 4, Episode 12)
+ I spent 20 minutes in the Columbia River town of Clatskanie, Oregon this week visiting the new mural of Raymond Carver, painted on the wall of the old hospital where he was born, which is now a charter school. 20 minutes is about all the time you’ll want to spend in Clatskanie, especially if you aren’t driving a pickup truck with a Blue Lives Matter flag welded to the bed. When Carver and Tess Gallagher visited Clatskanie in the 80s, and read their poems from the hood of his BMW (he bought with Hollywood loot from a screenplay he sold) in the parking lot of the IGA, no one had the faintest idea who he was…
+ The waterfall depicted on the mural is on Beaver Creek about 10 miles outside of town, a boisterous series of cascades that was engulfed by the sound of chainsaws and gunfire the last time I scrambled down the mossy canyon to see them…
+ Shouldn’t Tom Pinecone (aka, Thomas Pynchon) be working on a new novel instead of tweeting from the account of the guy who butchered Inherent Vice?
+ Cornel West: “My dear brother – the great Stephen Sondheim – has passed. His genius shall live forever! He was profound in content, subversive in form and always beautifully lyrical. I loved him dearly!”
+ My father-in-law was a classmate of Sondheim‘s at George School, the Quaker prep academy in Buck County, Pennsylvania, where many Jewish intellectuals in New York sent their kids. Ed, an accomplished dancer (as well as painter) who was later part of Arthur Murray’s troupe, played a character who just loved to jitterbug…
+ I’ve always admired George Harrison, but I was astonished by his advocacy of exploiting Billy Preston, captured during the scene in Get Back (part two) when George boasted on camera to Lennon that they were getting Billy for free–”just happy to be on the record”–whereas they would’ve had to pay Nicky Hopkins (a much lesser player) the session rates. It sounded like the Chess Brothers devising ways to screw Muddy and Chester out of their royalties. Preston was later credited for his contribution to “Get Back,” and Apple Records released two of his albums, That’s the Way God Planned It and Encouraging Words. But you can bet that he wasn’t at the top of Alan Klein’s Accounts Payable list. Pay Billy’s estate!
+ Frederick Douglass: “They say music is good for insane people and I believe everybody is more or less insane.”
Black Rhythm Happening Everywhere Now
What I’m reading this week…
The Anthropocene Unconscious: Climate Catastrophe Culture
Springer Mountain: Meditations on Killing and Eating
(University of North Carolina Press)
The Blues Dream of Billy Boy Arnold
Billy Boy Arnold and Kim Fields
(University of Chicago)
What I’m listening to this week…
Live at the Village Vanguard, 2021
Christian McBride and Inside Straight
Deciphering the Message
The Effect Not the Cause of Oppression
“Depravity in the oppressed is no apology for the oppressor; but rather an additional stigma to him, as being, in a large degree, the effect, and not the cause and justification of oppression.”
– Herman Melville, White-Jacket